Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

March 12, 2015

Contact:
Sarah Blackwell | (585) 394-0787 x4

State Parks Press Office:
Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 | news@parks.ny.gov

SUNY Geneseo and Letchworth State Park Join Forces to Form Educational Collaborative

New Letchworth Nature Center to include hands-on classroom for research and instructional activities

Castile, N.Y. – Letchworth State Park and the State University of New York at Geneseo announced the formation of a formal partnership today, aimed at providing greater hands-on educational experiences and research opportunities at the new Letchworth Nature Center. As part of the 5-year cooperative agreement, the college will help develop and identify educational opportunities, research and environmental restoration projects, programming, and exhibits at the new center.

The new state-of-the-art Letchworth Nature Center is a centerpiece project of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 initiative. With construction set to begin this spring, the Letchworth Nature Center will serve as a welcoming gateway and educate visitors to the park’s natural offerings, rich geological history and diverse ecosystems. 

“In all seasons and settings, parks can be the greatest classrooms – facilitating hands-on connections and a deeper appreciation for our valuable natural resources,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “With spectacular scenery, magnificent waterfalls, and rich geological and cultural history, Letchworth State Park offers infinite opportunities for exploring diverse interests. I’m so pleased this partnership will encourage students to enhance their education through studying and experiencing New York’s natural world.”

The agreement announced today not only adds another valuable layer to the center’s educational mission, it also continues the public-private model being used to build the new facility. To date, approximately $1.7 million has been raised toward a $2 million private fundraising goal for the project – thanks to the efforts of the Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center and the many generous donors who have given to the project.

“The partnership between Letchworth State Park and SUNY Geneseo underscores the significance of this remarkable natural landscape. The Nature Center will encourage the public to learn about and fully appreciate this park’s resources and history, and ultimately lead to a renewed commitment to environmental stewardship and education,” said Peter Humphrey, chair of the Letchworth Nature Center Campaign Committee.

Letchworth State Park and SUNY Geneseo have already been working together informally for many years. The college has long utilized Letchworth as a teaching tool for its environmental studies program, using the park’s unique geographic features to fuel student research projects and aid in data collection. Letchworth has also benefited from student assistance through park internships, and work/study programs.

“I am delighted to see the formal establishment of this partnership between Geneseo and Letchworth State Park,” said Interim SUNY Geneseo President Carol Long. “The agreement will open the door for additional exciting applied research and learning opportunities for our students, and we are pleased to share these experiences with our community.”

As a year-round ADA compliant and sustainable facility, the center will provide a more formal educational setting for Geneseo students to continue their research and instruction. Students will benefit from the inclusion of state-of-the-art classroom space, a butterfly and biosphere garden, and specialized exhibitry detailing the rich natural diversity of Letchworth State Park.

As part of the new partnership agreed upon in a Memorandum of Understanding, SUNY Geneseo will provide up to $75,000 in teaching, display, and research equipment to be used in the Nature Center and in research projects undertaken by students at the college and Letchworth State Park staff. An advisory committee will oversee design elements and contributions from SUNY Geneseo as construction plans for the center move forward.

The committee will include:

  • Richard Parker, Genesee Regional Director
  • Roland Beck, Letchworth State Park Manager
  • Brian Scriven, Historic Site Manager
  • Douglass Bassett, Environmental Educator
  • Jim Kernan, Assistant Professor of Geography, SUNY Geneseo
  • Kristi Hannam, Assoc. Professor of Biology, SUNY Geneseo
  • Nicholas Warner, Assist. Professor Planetary Geology, SUNY Geneseo
  • Russell Judkins , Associate Professor of Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo
  • Dennis Showers, Distinguished Service Professor / School of Education, SUNY Geneseo
  • Jordan Kleiman, Associate Professor of History, SUNY Geneseo
  • Dan DeZarn, Director of Sustainability, SUNY Geneseo
  • Sue Ann Brainard, Reference and Instruction Librarian, SUNY Geneseo
  • Erica Leicht, Student, SUNY Geneseo

"The SUNY Geneseo/Letchworth State Park partnership will offer countless learning and service opportunities," said Jim Kernan, assistant professor of geography at SUNY Geneseo and advisory committee member. “Many students have already been involved in park projects, and completed research studies that they have presented at academic conferences. We expect that many more students will be able to study, volunteer, and learn in Letchworth State Park in the future. The Nature Center will enrich their learning experiences and better prepare them for graduate studies, careers, and engaged citizenship."

The Letchworth Nature Center is expected to break ground in May 2015. To learn more about the nature center, or to support the Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center by donating, visit: www.letchworthnaturecenter.org.

*For pictures of the March 12, 2015 Signing Ceremony, please contact Sarah@BreaktheIceMedia.com.

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About the Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center

The Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center is a public/private partnership with plans to erect a $6.1 million Nature Center on Letchworth State Park grounds. The result of nearly 5 years of planning, the Letchworth Nature Center will be a 5,000-square-foot, year-round, sustainable facility that will offer educational and interpretive programming to the 750,000 visitors that Letchworth welcomes through its gates each year. Meeting and classroom space, a research lab, and state-of-the-art exhibits are included in the design of the center – all of which will enhance the visitors’ understanding of the unique history, geology, and environment found in Letchworth State Park.

The fundraising efforts are being spearheaded by the Letchworth Nature Center Campaign Committee, and include representatives of the Genesee Regional Parks Commission, the Open Space Institute's Alliance for New York State Parks, and the Natural Heritage Trust. Private donations are being matched 2 to 1 by public funds. The campaign has raised $1.7 million dollars in private funds towards a $2 million goal, and will be matched by $4 million in state funds.

To learn more about the Letchworth Nature Center or to donate to the project, visit: www.letchworthnaturecenter.org.

About SUNY Geneseo
SUNY Geneseo, a highly regarded liberal arts college in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Founded in 1871, Geneseo has developed into one of the nation’s most selective public liberal arts institutions and is nationally recognized as a center of excellence in undergraduate education. Geneseo is committed to providing life-enhancing, residential education of the “whole person” on an idyllic campus where young people learn to define themselves intellectually, personally and socially.

Located 30 minutes south of Rochester, NY, Geneseo enrolls 5,300-5,400 undergraduate and graduate students who are distinguished by impressive academic backgrounds, a commitment to service, and their accomplishments after graduation.